NBC Weapons: Gangsters and Nerve Gas Don't Mix

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NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS

April 28, 2007: Russia has destroyed over 9,000 tons of its Cold War era nerve gas stockpile. That's nearly 25 percent of the total. Much of this has been done with financial and technical assistance from the United States. However, over a billion dollars flowing into Russia attracted the usual assortment of corrupt officials. This almost derailed further cooperation, until the United States could obtain an agreement to allow American officials to supervise the way the money was used. In other words, to make sure a lot of it was not stolen, and that the chemical weapons were destroyed.

Russias Cold War chemical stockpile held 40,000 tons of munitions. You'd think that the Russians would be eager to get this stuff destroyed safely. Well, sort of. But after World War II, thousands of tons of chemical weapons were just buried. Some of that stuff is now showing up, via erosion or leeching into the water supply. None of the World War II stuff was nerve gas, but most of it was still poisonous. Lots more stuff was dumped into the ocean after World War II, but salt water and the vastness of the oceans prevented any lasting problems. Not so with chemical weapons buried in out-of-the-way places.

Most Russians want the Cold War stockpiles disposed of safely, and permanently. But corruption doesn't take the long view, and unless you watch the disposal carefully, things can go wrong, and leave future generations with a nasty clean-up job. The most feared scenario is corrupt officials having nerve gas bombs and shells, which costs very little, and then pocketing the money that was to have been spent on the much more expensive destruction process.


 


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